Running Time: 93 minutes
Directed by: Grímur Hákonarson
Featuring: Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson, Charlotte Bøving
“Rams” (2016) is a great antidote not only to English language films but also to the huge overblown action spectaculars of the year – I think it is also safe to say that at this time of year and after the US election it is nice to see that troubles can also be had in the most remote of places amongst the smallest amount of people and animals.
“Rams” is primarily about two sheep farming brothers, who haven’t spoken to each other for decades, but are are affected by the infection of one of their flocks by scrapie. They live in adjacent properties and are are attached to their flocks, which may explain why they are both unmarried. All the sheep in both farms and across their valley have to be destroyed to avoid re-infection, and their wooden pens must be burned and barns disinfected. One brother, Gummi, kills his own flock before the biohazards team arrive, but hides a few ewes (seemingly free of scrapie), and a ram, in the basement of his house. They are the last of their breed. His errant brother Kiddi, who refused to kill his own sheep to disinfect his barns and is frequently drunk and abusive after his sheep were exterminated, accidentally discovers Gummi’s saves. So does a member of the cleanup team, who reports to his superiors. The two brothers are then forced to collaborate to save the sheep, taking them to the highlands in a blizzard.
Sibling rivalry is one of the oldest storylines and plots in narrative story telling and goes back to the Bible, with Kane and Able – we all know how that turned out. Hákonarson as both writer and director shows us a complex relationship through a huge landscape that reflects the gap between the brothers own chasm of difference. The film’s title has many meanings and of course one cannot help but think of the brothers as the Rams of the title butting heads until they are united by a common issue.
This is a drama tinged with a large amount of humour and the dividing line at times is very slim – but the viewer will be rewarded with a film and story that at once may be familiar to many New Zealanders and their own family issues (and possibly animal issues as well).
Hákonarson has a history of documentaries and short films and in this film he lets us witness long periods of reflection where we can act as witness to a tragedy that slowly morphs into a tale of redemption for both brothers – it is ultimately a story of making the right decisions at the right time. This is a must for any fan of foreign dramas.